Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: role; roll.

role; roll.

These are sometimes confused.

“Roll” has many senses, including breadstuff, but the only sense that causes problems is “a list or register; roster” {the teacher took roll}. “Role,” by contrast, means “a function or part, as in a drama.” E.g.:

o “She has no children with names such as Johnny, John, Peter, Paul, Mary or Martha. Instead, a sampling of names on one of her roles [read 'rolls'] includes Tiana, Victoria, Carmen, Melissa, Christopher, Phillip, Tyler and Allegra.” Marlene Feduris, “What’s in a Name?” Amarillo Globe-News, 24 May 1992, at D1.

o “‘What roll [read 'role'] will the faculty have in deciding on the curriculum?’ Durbin asked.” “New Division,” Daily Texan, 7 Oct. 1992, at 8, 9.

o “‘Everyone played their roll [read 'role'].’” Mark Rosner, “UConn Nails Horns 9686,” Austin Am.-Statesman, 16 Dec. 1993, at E1, E5 (quoting B.J. Tyler, a college basketball player, who should not be charged with this error).

Language-Change Index — (1) “role” misused for “roll” (= list): Stage 1; (2) “roll” misused for “role”: Stage 1.

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Quotation of the Day: “The scribble-book method is most warmly to be recommended. To leave no idiom, no expression unwritten. We can acquire riches by saving up the penny truths, too.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), in The Lichtenberg Reader: Selected Writings of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 80 (trans. Franz H. Mautner & Henry Hatfield, 1959).

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